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Minister Taking Homeless Shelter Appeal to Council

March 15, 1997|LESLEY WRIGHT

The Rev. Wiley S. Drake, the Southern Baptist minister who has been feuding with the city over his aid to the homeless, will take his case to the City Council on Monday.

Drake has appealed a Planning Commission decision denying a permit for a multipurpose center he has proposed at his church. The building would offer beds to the homeless and office space for other church activities.

After Drake rejected all of the conditions that commissioners wanted to attach to the permit, they voted unanimously Feb. 13 to reject the plan.

Since his fight began last summer, Drake has insisted that his mission to the poor is part of his religious duties and is thus protected by the 1st Amendment.

Drake refused to submit a manual of operations that city officials said was a prerequisite to opening a homeless shelter. He said that his book of church bylaws should suffice.

City officials said Friday that Drake's argument is not likely to prevail. A report by planning officials recommends that the council deny the appeal because Drake continues to reject the conditions of operation they want to attach.

Homeowners living near the church have crowded meetings when the issue has been on the agenda, saying that the destitute are overrunning the neighborhood, bringing down property values and presenting a threat.

Drake also faces more legal issues this month. Attorneys will present their motions during a pretrial hearing Monday in Municipal Court on a criminal complaint by the city against the minister.

Officials said that the church violated an anti-camping ordinance by letting the homeless sleep on the grounds. A mediator is scheduled to hear the dispute March 24.

Drake said Friday that he has not given up in either issue.

"I always hold out hope," he said.

The council meets at 5 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 6650 Beach Blvd. Information: (714) 562-3500.

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